This is a collection of 22 contemporary first-person accounts by survivors of a wide range of life’s woes--some medical, some social, and most of them at least partly emotional. The challenges the writers have faced are too numerous to represent individually in keywords, but they include incest, colonialism, disfigurement, adultery and divorce, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bone marrow transplant, and the death of family members.

All of the authors are writers, a handful of them well-known, and virtually all the works collected here have been published before. They are unified, to use the editor’s words, by the idea that "lifewriting is a passage through grief to knowledge" (she might have added "and to healing").


This rich collection is a medical, psychological, emotional, and literary feast. It is very close in spirit to Foster & Swander’s collection, The Healing Circle: Authors Writing of Recovery (annotated by Janice Willms and also by John Woodcock) but it is wider in reference than the latter, which deals mainly with medical situations. This volume might be too miscellaneous for some medical classrooms, but not if one is interested in the patient’s experience or in challenges to selfhood more generally--or in grief, since the editor includes eight stories on the death of family members.



Place Published

New York




Kathryn Rhett

Page Count